Baltimore Ravens: Getting to Know the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Andrew StewartContributor INovember 24, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 21:  LeGarrette Blount #27 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is tackled by the Ray McDonald #91 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 21, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Sunday’s game time for the Ravens vs. Buccaneers has been moved to 4:15pm ET in part of the NFL flex schedule and will now be nationally televised on FOX.

Sunday’s game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens has some of the biggest story lines in Week 12 of the 2010 NFL season. The game features two young quarterbacks and a solid running game on both sides.

Both teams enter Sunday’s game with 7-3 records. Baltimore holds a 4-0 record at home while the Buccaneers have a 4-1 record on the road. The play on both sides of the ball has been almost identical by both teams throughout 2010. Throw in the recent Mike Williams DUI arrest and you have one of the most intriguing games during Thanksgiving weekend.

The Buccaneers have thrown their name into the pot of surprise teams in 2010, along with the Kansas City Chiefs. Even with identical records, the Baltimore Ravens are grasping first place in the AFC North as they continue to work toward a coveted first-round buy, while Tampa Bay sits in third place in the NFC South.

2010 has been a better year for the Buccaneers than 2009. In 2009 the Buccaneers finished with a 3-13 record and hopes of a turnaround seemed to be in the distant future. 2010 isn't so distant now as Tampa Bay has won seven games and positioned itself to make a run at a Wild Card or even win their division.

The recent success cannot be bought too heavily though as Tampa has not shown the ability to beat a top opponent. In Week 3 Tampa lost to a Charlie Batch-led Pittsburgh Steelers team 38-13. Tampa Bay has also suffered disappointing losses to division opponents, New Orleans and Atlanta.

The Buccaneers are led by second-year quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman has avoided the “sophomore slump” and has been a leading catalyst to the Buccaneers success in 2010.

Freeman has already matched his career high in games played as a quarterback for the Bucs. Through 10 games so far this season Josh Freeman’s numbers are nearly identical in every statistic. He has thrown for 14 touchdowns, has eclipsed the 2,000-yard passing mark and has over 200 yards rushing.

Tampa Bay will rely upon Freeman’s ability to keep drives alive with his feet throughout the game whether evading a sack or stepping up in the pocket to pick up a first down.

Baltimore has been notoriously bad at finishing off quarterbacks. Although Freeman is not Ben Roethlisberger, Baltimore’s defenders will not be able to rely on arm tackles to bring down the 6’6", 250-pound quarterback.

However, as good as Josh Freeman has been for the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay will rely on rookie LeGarrette Blount to carry the ball. The former high-profile running back out of Oregon has taken over as the leading back in the Buccaneers offense. Blount’s success in the past five weeks has pushed veteran Cadillac Williams to a second option much like Willis McGahee.

Blount broke onto the scene in Week 6 after taking 11 carries for 72 yards against the St. Louis Rams in an 18-17 win. The following week Tampa Bay gave the ball to Blount 22 times for 120 yards on the ground with two touchdowns against the Cardinals.

LeGarrette Blount managed to silence a loud Arizona crowd after Blount ran over Arizona corner Michael Adams for a 15-yard score in the third quarter.

In his last six games, Blount has carried the ball 411 yards on 91 attempts and three touchdowns. Blount’s other rushing touchdown in 2010 came against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 38-13 loss in Week 3.

Tampa’s pass defense has been equally impressive in 2010. Tampa’s secondary has combined for 15 interceptions, while Aquib Talib leads the Bucs with five and one touchdown.

The Buccaneer run defense on the other hand has been almost nonexistent and is very much still a work in progress. Tampa’s interior defense has given up over 1,300 yards on the ground, and eight plays of 20-plus yards. The Buccaneers will have their hands full against Ray Rice.

Las Vegas has not made Tampa’s chances any better either. The Buccaneers enter Sunday’s game as eight-point underdogs in Baltimore.